History made as AFC go to Hartley in the play-offs

AFC Dunstable head to Hartley Wintney this evening
AFC Dunstable head to Hartley Wintney this evening

AFC Dunstable have broken new ground by reaching the Southern League Division East play-offs for the first time in their history.

After finishing fifth in the table this season, just their second campaign at this level, Steve Heath’s side travel to Hartley Wintney tonight, with the winners playing either Hayes & Yeading or Cambridge City in the final.

Speaking ahead of the game, Heath, who saw his side beaten 1-0 home and away by their opponents this season, said: “The two league games against Hartley, there has been nothing between us.

“It took a wonder free-kick at Creasey Park back in February for them to beat us and the game at the beginning of the season was a tight affair.

“It has been tough keeping all the players fit and fresh, with playing on average every three days in April.

“A few players are carrying slight knocks, but that is to be expected with the amounts of games recently, although I do not really have any real injury worries.”

The match is the culmination of plenty of effort and commitment from Heath and the whole club, as he added: “Since joining just over four seasons ago, I am delighted to see all the hard work put in by the club’s committee, my management team and of course the players who have been loyal to me.

“When I joined in 2013-14, many players decided to leave and I was left with a rebuilding job.

“With the backing of the club, we have been on a journey that has seen us win the Spartan South Midlands Premier title, the Bedfordshire Senior Cup and the Bedfordshire Premier Cup.

“On a personal note, even though no trophies are a stake, qualifying for the play-offs is up there with what I have achieved in my management career.

“People sit up and take notice of what clubs do at the higher level which is the Southern League and while winning trophies is great, testing yourself against quality teams and top managers is very satisfying.”

AFC warmed up for the match with an impressive 6-1 win over Hanwell Town at Creasey Park on Saturday.

The visitors had actually led 1-0 inside three minutes, Nicholas Turner opening the scoring.

However, AFC hit back quickly, Louis Bircham making it 1-1 six minutes later as he went on to score a first half hat-trick with further strikes on 38 and 43 minutes.

In the second half there was no stopping Heath’s side as Jermaine Hall made it 4-1 10 minutes in.

Late on, Christian Tavernier (82) and BJ Christie (88) completed the rout as AFC signed off in style.

AFC: B Carney, Murphy, N Carney, Frater, Longden, Ajayi, Olaleye (Roberts 52), Tavernier, Bircham (Griffiths 75), N Frater (Christie 46), Hall.

Subs not used: Morgan, Cashman.

Attendance: 83.